As a young boy, Jerry Brudos had always felt out of place. His mother, Eileen, had wanted a daughter instead of a second son, and she made no secret of her disappointment. Jerry felt her disapproval keenly and struggled to connect with her. Then, one day in 1944, he stumbled upon a pair of stilettos in a junkyard.
Intrigued by the delicate shoes, Jerry brought them home with him, hoping that his mother would finally see him in a positive light. But when Eileen saw the shoes, she was furious. She demanded that Jerry take them back to the dump and bring nothing like them into the house again.
Jerry was heartbroken. He had finally found something that interested him, only to have it torn away. But something inside him had also shifted. The shoes had sparked a fascination that he couldn’t ignore. Despite his mother’s warnings, he began to secretly collect women’s shoes, stealing them whenever he could.
As Jerry grew older, his obsession with shoes became darker. He fantasized about what he could do with them, imagining scenarios that made him feel both excited and ashamed. He tried to suppress these feelings, but they only grew stronger with time.
By the late 1960s, Jerry had turned his fantasies into reality. He had already killed at least four women in Oregon, using their corpses for his necrophilic desires. He mutilated their bodies in horrific ways, using their severed parts to feed his obsession.
As the years went by, Jerry’s crimes would shock the nation and earn him the nickname “The Shoe Fetish Slayer.” But for Jerry, it was all about the shoes. They were the one thing that had ever made him feel truly alive, and he would do anything to keep them close.
Born on January 31, 1939, in Webster, South Dakota, Jerry was the second son of Henry and Eileen Brudos. Eileen had hoped for a daughter, and when she gave birth to another son, she was bitterly disappointed. Her disappointment turned into hostility towards Jerry. She was critical of him and favored his older brother, Larry.
Jerry Brudos, a man with a twisted obsession, attacked a woman for the first time when he was just 17 years old in 1956. He had planned his attack well in advance, digging a hole in a hillside fantasized about locking girls up as “sex slaves.” With a knife in hand, he kidnapped a random girl, and forced her to take naked photographs for him.
Despite being caught in the act, Brudos was sent to the psychiatric ward of Oregon State Hospital for evaluation. During his evaluation, doctors discovered his hatred for his mother and other women, his collection of women’s clothing, and his fantasy of putting kidnapped girls in freezers to arrange their frozen bodies in sexually explicit positions. However, the doctors didn’t think there was anything seriously wrong with him and released him back into the public.
Brudos graduated from high school, joined the Army in March 1959, but was discharged by October, possibly due to his alarming obsessions. After living back at home, he met and married 17-year-old Darcie Metzler. The new couple moved to Oregon, where they had two children, and from the outside, Brudos seemed relatively normal.
Despite being seemingly normal, Brudos’ sexual fantasies permeated his marriage. He forced Darcie to pose nude for him and clean their home while butt naked while wearing high heels. For a few years, Darcie complied with his demands, while a monster was stewing within Jerry Brudos.
Darcie and Jerry Brudos’ marriage had turned sour, leaving Jerry to seek solace in his twisted fetish of collecting women’s shoes and underwear. But his behavior was about to become far more sinister. One day in 1967, while walking downtown, Jerry spotted a woman with an irresistible pair of shoes. He followed her home, broke in, strangled her, and raped her. He left with her shoes as a trophy.
Soon after, Linda Slawson, a young encyclopedia saleswoman, visited his home on business, and Jerry pounced on the opportunity. He pretended to be interested in buying an encyclopedia, lured her inside, and murdered her. He hid her corpse in his garage and used her severed foot to model his shoe collection, just as he had fantasized about years ago.
This act marked the beginning of an 18-month killing spree, earning Jerry the nickname “The Shoe Fetish Slayer.”
Shoe Fetish Killing Spree
Jerry Brudos’ violent and disturbing killing spree continued in a sickening fashion. He took his obsession to new heights, dressing up in women’s clothing as he stalked and abducted his victims. Karen Sprinkler was taken at gunpoint and forced to pose in various types of women’s underwear before being raped, strangled, and hanged by her neck in Brudos’ garage. In a perverse and grotesque act, he then had sex with her dead body multiple times, before mutilating her and throwing her into the river.
The pattern repeated itself with Jan Whitney, a college student who accepted a ride from Brudos. He strangled and raped her, before hoisting her corpse on a pulley and having sex with it. Brudos made a resin mold of her breast and used it as a paperweight before disposing of her body in the river.
Linda Salee was next to fall victim to Brudos’ violent and depraved desires. He raped, strangled, and mutilated her body before throwing it into the river as well. Throughout his killing spree, Brudos collected trophies from his victims, keeping them locked away in his garage and forbidding his wife from entering without his permission. As the number of missing women in the area continued to rise, the police investigated the disappearances, eventually closing in on Jerry Brudos. Police caught the Shoe Fetish Slayer, tried him, and sentenced him to life in prison for his heinous crimes.
Jerry Brudos had been living a double life for years. He was a family man, a husband and father who appeared to be living an ordinary life. But behind closed doors, he was a monster.
When the police searched Brudos’ house, they found a treasure trove of evidence: stolen women’s shoes and underwear, bondage equipment, photographs, and even human body parts. There were casts of women’s breasts and other intimate body parts that Brudos had made using his victims’ bodies.
In the end, Jerry Brudos was charged with the murders of Linda Salee, Jan Whitney, and Karen Sprinkler. They sentenced him to three consecutive life sentences.
But his heinous crimes had left an indelible mark on the town of Salem, Oregon. The community was stunned by the brutality of the Shoe Fetish Slayer. For many, the murders were a harsh reminder that evil can lurk in even the most unassuming places.
Jerry Brudos died in prison in 2006 at 67. But the memory of his crimes lives on. They are a warning of the darkness that can reside in the human heart, and a reminder of the importance of remaining vigilant against the forces of evil that threaten to tear our communities apart.